A NIGHT WITH THE SPHINX 17
the rocky foundations below the Sphinx. "It is not impossible/' he said at a meeting of a learned society, "that inside some part of the monster's body there exists a crypt, a cave, a subterranean chapel which might be a tomb." But not long after he made this plan, death called at his door and he was, himself, enclosed in a tomb. Since then no one has tried to penetrate the stone floor that surrounds the Sphinx, nor the rocky platform upon which it rests. When I raised this matter with Professor Selim Hassan, whom the Egyptian authorities have put in charge of the "City of the Dead" excavations, and asked about the possibility of undiscovered chambers beneath the Sphinx, he pushed the point aside with an emphatic and final reply:
"The Sphinx itself is carved out of the solid rock. There' can be nothing but solid rock underneath it!"
I listened with the respect that the Professor fully deserved, but could bring my mind neither to accept nor to reject his statement: I preferred the open mind. The name Armais closely resembles that of Harmachis, the Sun god, whom another legend said that the Sphinx personified. Quite likely, there is no tomb beneath it at all and the two traditions have got somewhat mixed during the slow course of time. But rock chambers can be cut for other purposes also and the early Egyptians were not above doing this on occasions; witness their subterranean crypts wherein guarded and exclusive religious functions were performed. There are old and persistent traditions in Chaldean, Greek, Roman and even Arab sources that tell of an underground passage and chamber through which priests conveyed themselves from the Great Pyramid to the Sphinr In the main these traditions may be baseless, but there is no smoke without a little fire also, and with a people like the early Egyptians, who were so fond of hewing passage after passage through solid rock, and who loved to hide the entrances to these passages, no Egyptian can safely point to the ground on which he stands to-day and declare that no human moles ever burrowed their way through it. The ancient artists who cut the granite stele of Thothmes that lies between the fore-legs, show the Sphinx as resting on a cubical plinth, which is itself a building with a great central doorway and recessed decoration. Was there some ancestral, now-lost legend upon which they based their picture? Was there a plinth-like temple cut out of the rocky hill, with the Sphinx resting like a giant upon its very roof? One day we shall know.